A Word With: Jordan Gardner
George Marinos recently sat down with Hanover Rhinos rookie and New Oxford graduate Jordan Gardner.
Gardner played the first 6 games of this season at quarterback, and has played the last 3 at tight end.
GM: I’m here with Hanover Rhinos rookie Jordan Gardner. You’ve played a number of positions in your first season as a semi-pro player. Describe what this first season has been like for you.
JG: It’s been crazy, a big step up from just playing high school ball last year. Playing several positions hasn’t been a big change for me at all. I started at 5 different positions just during my senior year of high school, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, as well as being on special teams. It’s something I take pride in, being very versatile.
GM: You had a really nice game at tight end this past week against Franklin County. Tell me what it’s like when the quarterback looks your way, and you see the ball coming toward you in the air?
JG: I’ve felt like I’ve had to prove something all season to my teammates and my opponents, so honestly, when that ball comes my way, the only thing that goes through my head, is me telling myself ‘make a play’. For you, your teammates, and everyone watching. I was never really a selfish receiver, I was part of a triple option offense most of my football career and played receiver, wasn’t fun, but now I have been given a chance to show off my skills, and heck, why not, Alex (Isennock) made me look good when I was playing quarterback, why not return the favor every once in awhile with a nice catch.
GM: What’s the toughest part of playing tight end?
JG: For me personally, blocking some of the defensive ends in this league. Some of them outweigh me 50 or more pounds, a lot for a small tight end, but I do my best, and do have a few pancakes that I do take a lot of pride in.
GM: Another thing that you take a lot of pride in is a moment from your junior year at New Oxford. You caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the area’s established football power, South Western. Talk about the moment, and what it was like to be a part of that.
JG: Well, that season alone was something special. New Oxford, known as a joke in the sport of football, the program had its bright moments, but was never a huge football program. My class, even as juniors, took the entire school, and boosted school spirit, and that just had the football team ready to play. We all worked out twice a day throughout the summer, doing everything we could to put new Oxford on the map, and we made a statement, losing by literally an inch to Bermudian Springs, and than beating South Western, two power houses. We made the playoffs that year, and that season will be something I will never forget.
GM: It must have been tough to endure a winless season the next year as a senior.
JG: Of course, it’s never fun. To be a captain, a leader of that team, to not be able to get the rest of the seniors a win, I know I personally was heart broken after our senior night game, because our class was always looked at as the class to save New Oxford football, even through little league football, middle school, JV. We always had so much talent, and worked so hard, and for it to not work out in our favor to end our career, was definitely something hard to deal with.
GM: It seems like a common theme at New Oxford was proving everyone on the outside wrong. You’re a pretty calm guy on the sidelines on game day. Is there any part of you that has a little chip on your shoulder?
JG: Yeah, I have a big chip on my shoulder. I love to lead, by example, I usually am calm and don’t say much, unless I see someone that needs it, like (our quarterback) Alex. I like to say just a few words running out to the huddle, because I know quarterback is not an easy position to just jump in and play, but he’s doing well, and I’m proud of the kid. I’m not one to talk trash, or start anything, but I’m not afraid to stand up for my teammates, and I’ve not hesitated all season to stand in front of my teammates, just how I was raised. You protect your own, you protect your family with all you got, because they will do the same for you.
GM: When you played your last game at New Oxford, did you think that your career was over, or did you envision playing at the next level?
JG: My plans were to go to McDaniel College and continue my football career. That was the school I wanted to attend, but didn’t get accepted, and I knew I didn’t want to stop playing, especially after my senior year of high school, so I tried out for the rhinos, and the rest is history.
GM: How did you find out about the Rhinos?
JG: From Lauren, our trainer. I actually dated her in high school, and she introduced me to the team. I did the chains for a few games last season, and just knew that’s what I was going to do. I wanted to be a big part of the team, and I feel as if I put a mark on the team, can’t say I had an amazing season, but more will come, that I promise.
GM: You won the starting quarterback job, and then went out and led a comeback victory in the first game of the season. How did that feel, especially after not winning a game for a year?
JG: It was amazing. I was never given the chance to be the guy (at quarterback) throughout high school. My senior year, I proved myself and won the job, but we had no real threat on the outside, so they moved me out there to hopefully improve the offense completely, and I only had 5 catches and one touchdown my senior year. So to win the job at a higher level, and get a statement at the position in my first game, was definitely a huge step in my career.
GM: How would you describe your time spent at quarterback for the Rhinos over the first 6 weeks of 2016?
JG: A lot of fun, a little painful at times, but hey, my line did all they could do, and I couldn’t ask for much more. I would much rather have ended the season at quarterback, because it’s the position I love, but I will play my role, and come back next year, and Alex, I got a QB competition for you, how’s that sound?
GM: Competition breeds champions. Was it exciting watching Alex really come into his own during the second half this past week?
JG: Yes it was, I was happy to be catching passes from him, really showed a lot about his character and toughness. That’s one man I will go through hell and back for, whether he’s throwing me the ball, or I’m throwing him the ball, or even outside of football, I got his back and I know he’s got mine.
GM: Does it really irritate you when someone says sports aren’t important? Through sports, many great friendships and bonds are formed for life, and there seems to be a level of sports that most on the outside don’t understand.
JG: Yes it does. I was a three sport athlete in high school, and 90% of my friends were athletes, too. Just bonds throughout sports, through the good times and the bad times, sports show character, and through that, that’s how you earn respect, and grow friendships. The Hereford boys, Alex, Dom, and Jack, hell, I’ve never even heard of Hereford until I met them, who would have ever guessed I would be friends with them, let alone close friends. And my best friend Dallas Carter, glad he was able to share this season with me.
GM: What do you think about the young core group of players this team has?
JG: I think we are very talented. Honestly, I think our offense could be the scariest offense to play in the league, with the weapons we have. With more time to open up and throw the ball down the field, and experience alone, this team could be very scary in the next few seasons, because our defense has already proven themselves against the best of the best.
GM: What are the most recent 5 songs on your music playlist?
JG: I listen to a lot of different music, so here it is: 1. Low Life by The Weeknd. 2. Really Really by Kevin Gates. 3. Mine by Lil’ Kim Ft. Kevin Gates. 4. Power of Positive Drinkin’ by Chris Janson. 5. Choices by Hearts & Hands.
GM: Are you a Ford or a Chevy guy?
JG: Ford all the way!! I own a 1989 Ford F-150. His name is Pap, and wouldn’t trade him for a Ferrari!!
GM: Where did the nickname Pap come from?
JG: Just an old truck, one thing I love about that truck, it’s simple, and so is Pap, old and simple. Perfect name for that truck.
GM: Would you ever put Truck Nutz on Pap?
JG: (Laughs), Never, too much respect for that truck (chuckles).
GM: How do you feel about the little old lady in South Carolina who received a $445 fine for having Truck Nutz on her pickup truck?
JG: I didn’t hear about that. I think it’s funny and all to put them on a truck, nothing against it, just nothing I would personally do. And honestly, I think driving by a little old lady in a truck with Truck Nutz on it would probably make my day (chuckles).
GM: You do know that’s going to be the girls in your generation 50 years from now, driving around with them dangling from the bumper like its nothing?
JG: Probably (chuckles).
GM: What’s your favorite TV show?
JG: Trailer Park Boys.
GM: Explain the show to some of our readers who have never seen it.
JG: It’s about a community in a trailer park, doing many different things. Honestly, it’s hilarious.
GM: Which character from the show are you, and why?
JG: Julian, because he’s the leader. Everyone looks to him for direction, and I love being the person people look up to for guidance
GM: Could you ever imagine yourself being a guidance counselor?
JG: I think I could do it, most definitely, just don’t know if that would be my career choice.
GM: What made you decide to start playing football when you were younger?
JG: My older cousin Dustin really got me into it. I have him to thank for all my talents, he really made me the football player I am today.
GM: Did he play for New Oxford as well?
JG: He did his senior year. He also played at Spring Grove and Bermudian. He played for the Rhinos earlier this year, in the Santa Bowl, but broke his collarbone. It was a bit of a heart-break to know he couldn’t play with me anymore. We finally had our chance to be on the same team, but it ended fast.
GM: What position did he play?
JG: He played receiver, corner, and saftey. He actually recorded an interception in the Santa Bowl.
GM: Was it difficult playing a game at quarterback in which both teams were wearing the same jersey color, like the Santa Bowl?
JG: Very (chuckles), it was a confusing time.
GM: I have one final question for you. Donald Trump’s hair is _____ and reminds me of ______.
JG: Donald Trump’s hair is ugly, and reminds me of an old lady’s hair.
GM: (Chuckles), thanks for your time, man.
JG: No problemo.
Remember, you can catch a new Q&A session with a Hanover Rhinos player on Wordy Wednesdays, once a month during the offseason, exclusively on Rhino Charge, the official blog of the Hanover Rhinos.